YOUR PERSISTENT ACTION LAST WEEK GAVE SECRET TRIAL DETAINEE HASSAN ALMREI ENOUGH HOPE TO SUSPEND HIS HUNGER STRIKE. MR. MAHJOUB NEEDS YOUR SUPPORT AS HIS LIFE ENTERS A CRITICAL WEEK
Ideas for action and a sample letter appear at the bottom of this email.
"Don't Make Me a Widow," Pleads Wife of Secret Trial Detainee Mohammad Mahjoub on Day 68 of His Hunger Strike for Improved Conditions in Solitary Confinement
Mona Elfouli calls on Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, Prime Minister Paul Martin, Deputy PM Anne McLellan, Immigration Minister Joe Volpe and Ontario Minister for Corrections Monte Kwinter, to Respond to Her Husband's Demands for Medical Attention and Contact Visits with Children
TORONTO: SEPTEMBER 12, 2005 -- After two months without food, secret trial detainee Mohammad Mahjoub, an Egyptian refugee held since June, 2000, without charge or bail at Metro West Detention Centre, is weak and in ill-health as he marks day 68 of a hunger strike.
Almost eclipsed by the high-profile hunger strike of Syrian refugee Hassan Almrei, who ended his protest September 3 on Day 73 without food, Mahjoub has continued his quiet, determined battle for improved conditions of detention while he awaits the outcome of the lengthy court processes which will determine whether he will receive bail and, in the longer term, whether it is legal to deport him to torture in Egypt.
Mahjoub is demanding, among other things:
a monthly contact visit with his children, denied to him after more than five years at Metro West;
proper medical treatment, including care for a knee injury sustained in jail, a liver biopsy to properly assess the Hepatitis C he contracted at the jail (which, despite being recommended by a doctor, has been denied for undisclosed security reasons) and a pair of glasses.
(After protracted efforts by advocates outside the jail to bring an eye doctor in to see him, Mahjoub has not been able to fill a prescription for glasses in over 8 months.)
"I am appealing to the people of Canada and to the Canadian government, the people who are responsible for Mohammad being in jail on secret evidence -- Irwin Cotler, Anne McLellan, Joe Volpe, Paul Martin-- and to the Minister responsible for jails in Ontario, Monte Kwinter -- to help us reach a solution so Mohammad can live," says Mona Elfouli, who has been married to Mahjoub since 1996.
"I don't want to become a widow, and my two little children need their father home with them. But while we wait for bail, we need to make things more livable at the jail for my husband. He needs medical attention for his Hepatitis C, and it is torture for the children not to be able to hug and kiss their dad."
Elfouli says her husband has struggled constantly for basic dignity at the jail, but has run up against institutional barriers. "We both appreciate that there are some very good people at the jail, some good guards and captains and caring people in the health care unit, but it is immigration that is making it so hard for him to get proper healthcare, and Mr. Kwinter's office refuses to allow the touch visits."
Matthew Behrens, a friend of Mahjoub's who has offered $5,000 towards his release on bail, is concerned that government officials on all levels simply don't care. "This is, after all, a federal government that is determined to deport Mohammad and the other secret trial detainees to torture. The Ontario government has refused to sincerely negotiate, forcing these men to the point in their nonviolent protests that lifelong damage, if not death, will result.
"So it's clear on one level that the governments don't really care about their lives. But one thing they do care about is votes. And we hope they see that a lot of formerly sure votes are in doubt, especially with blood on their hands should Mr. Mahjoub die in custody on their watch. Thousands of people responded in the past 10 days to the demands of both Mr. Almrei and Mr. Mahjoub, and those folks are disgusted at the insensitivity and callous lack of action of both the Ontario and federal governments.
"Time is running out on Mr. Mahjoub. The government had better move soon."
On September 2, a delegation of medical professionals delivered a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin's Montreal constituency office calling for immediate action to meet the conditions necessary to end the hunger strikes. "We regard the conditions under which Mr. Almrei and Mr. Mahjoub are currently detained to be unacceptable from a health standpoint," the letter read. "It is shocking that people have to resort to a hunger strike to demand conditions that we feel to be so basic and justified. Furthermore, it is imperative to understand that if this hunger strike continues much longer, a fatal outcome or at least a disability is to be expected. This is an entirely avoidable outcome and for these reasons we urge your urgent and immediate intervention to avoid an extremely regrettable consequence."
The medical professionals note that, in addition to the immediate conditions giving rise to the protest, it is unacceptable that men such as Mahjoub are forced to deal with the psychological torture of indefinite detention and uncertainty over whether he may be deported to torture.
By way of comparison, in 1981, Bobby Sands and 9 other IRA prisoners on hunger strike died after periods varying from 46 to 73 days after sustaining severe organ damage (e.g., blindness). Several survivors of the strike remain permanently handicapped.
For more information, contact the Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org or (416) 651-5800. Our website is www.homesnotbombs.ca
Please write, call, fax the following individuals. A sample letter is provided below. Please cc your letters to Prime Minister Paul Martin (email@example.com ), Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister, (McLellan.A@parl.gc.ca), Immigration Minister Joe Volpe (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Justice Minister Irwin Cotler (email@example.com)
CC correspondence to Campaign to Stop Secret Trials in Canada at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (416) 651-9770
NOTE: Mr. Kwinter's office will say this is a matter for the federal government and will try and shift your attention to Ottawa, since Mohammad is a federal detainee, but he is held in a provincial jail, so the province has the ability and responsibility to meet with him and change his conditions of detention.
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
18th floor, 25 Grosvenor Street, Toronto, ON, M7A 1Y6
Phone: (416) 325-0408
Fax: (416) 325-6067
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
13th Floor, 340 Laurier Ave.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P8
Phone: (613) 992-4524
Fax: (613) 943-0044 or
please cc: Paul Martin, Cotler, and Volpe
Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
Government of Ontario
Re: Hunger strike of Mohammad Mahjoub
Dear Mr. Kwinter,
I am writing to urge you to take immediate action to meet the legitimate demands of Mohammad Mahjoub, who has been detained without trial in an Ontario prison for over five years and is now on a hunger strike to demand minimally decent conditions of detention. His main demands include proper medical treatment for the Hepatitis C he contracted at the jail (a prescribed liver biopsy has been denied), proper medical care for as knee injury sustained at the jail, filling a long-neglected prescription for eyeglasses, and touch visits with his young children once a month.
Although he is a federal detainee, he is within your jurisdiction in a provincial jail, and it is therefore your responsibility to respond to this crisis.
As of today (Monday, September 12), Mohammad Mahjoub is on Day 68 of his hunger strike. Mr. Mahjoub was already in poor health before beginning his current hunger strike, and medical professionals have stated, in a letter to Prime Minister Paul Martin September 2, 2005, that Mahjoub is at imminent risk of permanent, severe impairment, and very possibly, of death.
By way of comparison: in 1981, Bobby Sands and 9 other IRA prisoners on hunger strike died after periods varying from 46 to 73 days after sustaining severe organ damage (e.g., blindness). Several survivors of the strike remained permanently handicapped. In 1996, many Kurdish hunger strikers in Turkey died after periods of 65 to 69 days.
Please intervene immediately to try to find a humane solution to this situation. You have the power, and therefore the moral responsibility, to resolve this crisis.
Surely it is not too much to ask for a monthly contact visit with two small children and for proper medical care.
As Canadians, we pride ourselves on respecting basic human rights. Please remain true to this fundamental value. Should Mohammad Mahjoub die or be permanently handicapped, it would be to our lasting shame and dishonour as Canadians and as members of the human family.
I look forward to your prompt response to my letter and to positive action to resolve this crisis.
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